A picture of a teacher from America introducing himself to a university class in China has become widely shared, causing amusement on the internet. This sheds light on the growing tension where accusations of espionage are rampant, teachers risk being reported by students for small differences in beliefs, and the Chinese government is striving to involve society as a whole in combating espionage.
On September 15, a Xiaohongshu user with the username “~十号草莓酱” (pronounced “Shí hào cǎoméijiàng” or “Strawberry Jam No. 10”) posted a picture of an American teacher from Shanghai Normal University’s Tianhua College.
The Chinese editors at CDT have gathered a selection of comments from Weibo and other social media sites regarding the instructor’s cautious presentation.
I suggest that we remove all foreigners to ensure the ongoing safety and security of our great nation.
As he travels down the long and winding Songling Road, he remains unaware of the deep complexities of Chinese culture, where there is always a small infraction that can be used against you.
The RAmen rolls the dice: Educate him with the saying, “This place does not hold 300 taels of silver buried.” [Simply put, “A straightforward denial reveals the truth.”]
The camel of sushi is bigger than the moose: Excellent guidance for public opinion.
FlyingFree2039: The world has transformed and we can never revert to the way things were two decades ago.
The diligent ones in the midst of adversity: Agents are ubiquitous (haha)
CEO of Canghai Yihong: [eating a watermelon] Only someone from America would be so paranoid! This clearly demonstrates the level of indoctrination present in American society! [shiba inu] [Mandarin]
According to Bloomberg’s Xiao Zibang, John Liu, and Philip Glamann, when teachers and students returned to Beijing university this autumn, they were given training on an unforeseen topic – how to prevent foreign espionage.
As September began and students returned to the top universities in Beijing, a propaganda campaign on campus indicated a concerning addition to their curriculum: an accelerated lesson on identifying and apprehending spies.
According to the country’s intelligence agency, videos were broadcasted at Tsinghua University, a government-run institution, to instruct teachers and students to act as a “defense line” against foreign influences. The Beijing University of Technology also hosted a national-security themed garden party.
Beihang University students, who attend an aeronautics institute that is currently under US sanctions for its connections to the military, were instructed to participate in an interactive training game called “Who’s The Spy?” The Ministry of State Security, on their newly created WeChat account, asked, “How will the college students in your vicinity contribute to strengthening national security in a unique way?” [Source]
Changes made this year to China’s Counter-espionage Law have caused worry that individuals in business, academia, and other fields could be easily accused of spying for simply carrying out their job duties such as teaching, conducting research, or any other regular tasks. In August, the Chinese Ministry of State Security, responsible for domestic and international intelligence and counterintelligence efforts, used its newly created WeChat account to ask “all members of society” for assistance in their mission and offered rewards for any information provided. Despite this, the Chinese government and state media maintain that the updated law and current focus on anti-espionage is not intended to target innocent individuals.
The current discussion about spying brings to mind past Chinese government efforts to target “hostile foreign forces” and “historical nihilism.” These campaigns encouraged ordinary citizens, including students, to report any “suspicious” individuals, such as Chinese citizens returning from abroad or expatriate boyfriends. In return, they may have received a significant reward. Teachers in China are already overwhelmed with additional responsibilities, including acting as grassroots policy enforcers and filling in crowds (and sometimes managing them) during visits by high-ranking officials. Now, they may also have to worry about being reported by students seeking a reward of up to 500,000 yuan (known as a “walking 500,000”).